Book one (Castle and Well) of Selkies' Skins is available in entirety in ebook format as of March 16th, beginning at Smashwords. The print edition is now available on Amazon and Lulu with Samantha Buckley's stunning cover depicting Kirsty and the storm. An audio edition of the first book in the series narrated by Illya Leonov and now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible, with other venues pending. He has finished "Book of Seals: Pearls of Sea and Stone" which accompanies and precedes Selkies' Skins: Castle and Well which will be available in full audiobook format soon. (click to hear what he sounds like in past recordings of other projects)
This installment took a little more work. Justin and Raechel needed to be released together, so this is technically two but I will count it as one.
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Selkies' Skins 2
Section 2: Temple's LightInstallment 31Chapter 13 part 1
Section 2: Temple's Light
Justin lay on his back where he’d beached and passed out earlier, looking up at the roof of the cave. His body ached from fighting the currents and where he had been slammed into jagged rocks. His skin oozed green in places where it had been broken. Nothing made sense right now.
He’d been below the waves trying to find a way into where he knew his prey had gone and attempting to avoid the very irate selkie guard that had found him. He’d wondered if the Dark Priestess had alerted the guard, or if it was just his luck and the fact that it made sense someone would be guarding one of the Ancient Relics and Rifted Paths. Then the storm came and reached much farther than storms had ever reached in his life. Something tangled around him like an invisible net and he had been pulled through what felt like invisible fabric, released again to the full fury of the storm.
It had felt like it had awareness though, and purpose. Who or what had taken him? Was it Astereth reaching out his hand, or was it the blessing of the dragoness, or something else entirely?
The guard had no longer been present, the water tasted different, and preserving his life had taken precedence to figuring out what had happened.
Justin groaned and rubbed his hip, amazed he wasn’t broken. Every time a rock threatened him runes had flared green around him and shielded him. Gifu had surrounded him. Marks on his wrist caught his eye and he discovered gifu etched in blue and green over and over again, fully encasing his wrist. The tattoo was faded though as if it had been placed years ago and exposed to the sun too often.
He watched as the blue lines and the green lines seemed to war with each other, the colors flipflopping and writhing. “I am way too old for this stuff.” Justin grumbled and attempted to sit.
In the back of the cave he could hear stealthy rustling, and the sound of a mother shushing a babe. By the scent, this could only be a selkie cave. He was hungry, but he wasn’t that hungry that he would steal a child, especially in this state. He only wanted warmth, and to dry out, though not too much. Where there was a selkie cow though there was usually not a selkie bull too far away, and those meant spears.
Justin grimaced at the thought and made his way to the entrance, frowning at the water. “I’m leaving, mother. My apologies for intruding on you. Thank you for your hospitality.”
He picked his way along the rocks, hoping that somewhere ahead the beach gentled. The selkie’s eyes followed him, he could feel her confused and frightened gaze until he went around the bend, the last tendril of her scent fading from his nose.
“Where did I wash up?” He thought, trying to find some indication. He could feel the ping of one of the lighthouses connected to the navigation grid, but the signals prodding him confused him even more. “Nothing feels right.”
Justin sat and pulled his coral flute out of his pouch, relieved and surprised that it had not been broken. A small part of him mourned still being caught, still being alive like this. The rest was just glad he was alive and still had a chance. He settled on a rock near a pool and let the song within have its way. A rumble escaped his belly, caused it to quake, cramp, and claw. Every thought and need he had poured through his flute and called for fulfillment. He had to hunt.
“Please, just some fish. Nothing bigger.”
While Justin gathered himself and attempted to take care of his needs Raechel had likewise found herself pulled through tide and time. She knew that so long as Kirsty was within the bounds of Mara’s Maze it would take the knowledge flowing through her blood and bone and use this to create tasks. Problems found in the blood would have their energetic roots addressed and possibly corrected, or perhaps made worse. The dark priestess took stock of her surroundings.
Over the crashing pulse danced a flute far in the distance. It held no pull for her even though she recognized the most likely origins being a finman hunting his prey. She was no child, and today she did not hunt that quarry. Where she served was not here, and so no need to defend the Temple. No, he could court and eat any foolish maid answering or any child drawn to dance. It was not her concern, and she somewhat relished the thought.
Far south she saw the prick of a lighthouse, and a smear that might possibly be a ship. Or it might not. It would just be another of the rocks.
Her prey was nowhere in sight. A mysterious misty coastline glowered and sipped brine from jagged rocks which then smoothed and gentled further along the shore. Between two outstretched arms of rock sheltered a surprisingly sandy beach that would be afforded magnificent views of the full moon, and certainly flat enough for the practices of the land visiting folk of her breed. A dark bastille brooded and overlooked the views from atop a crag bedecked by wind and water worn caves. Some of those showed signs of life routinely turned out. One of those had the feel of wards placed on the entrance. Swimming nearer, the magic here tasted curiously of cinnamon and licorice.
Testing the boundary Raechel discovered that she could cross without harm, and without triggering anything. Cross in she did, and the cavern stretched and lumbered above, yielding at last worn rock to pull herself onto. A mooring waited nearby for absent boats and a passageway gave dark promises.
“Pirates, probably.” Raechel thought. “Magical ones and not Cowans.”
Raechel explored a bit after shifting to human form, testing the magic further. She frowned at the strange twining of selkie and human spells. Older ones warred with each other for claim of the space, but a set of newer ones welcomed each other, even embraced. Following that thread she worked a spell of her own trying to reveal as much information as she could, to see if there were anything of use to her own cause.
Impressions came with fleeting steps across the dark canvas. Stealthy meetings, whispered promises, a stolen skin. Raechel scowled as the story unfurled and then fizzled out in sputtering sparks. She had a face for each of the recent casters, and one that was far too much like her prey for her taste.
Her eyes fell on some still glowing letters superimposed over each other meant nothing. SMM and BCL. Placing her hand over it she called on a mostly forgotten aspect of her goddess. Confirmation came. It was indeed a pairing. Her blood activated and the wall dissolved, revealing a different passage. The scents here were old, though she knew what they meant. No reason to explore.
“If I poison that, perhaps I’ll kill the girl before she even exists.” A dark smile wove and danced over her lips. “That would be quite a blood healing indeed.”
The scent of the other passage was fresher, and as she stepped away the vanishing wall returned. Raechel turned toward the darkness and smiled.
Raechel stole into the passage to explore. Perhaps the other face was at home. Twisting a human, she hoped, would be an easy thing. With luck maybe she could even liberate that stolen skin. Then she’d burn it since the owner was now so obviously impure to willingly embrace during secret trysts.
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